Orchestration by Cecil Forsyth - PDF ebook



A classic comprehensive textbook on the subject of Orchestration written near the turn of the century yet still used today.

Excerpt from the author's introduction:

In this book an attempt is made first, to describe our modern orchestral instruments, where they sprang from, how they developed, and what they are today; next, to trace the types of music which have been reflected in these constructional changes and, in especial, the types most familiar since Beethoven's time. Without some knowledge on these points, the student is working in the dark. He is like a Lascar turned loose in a dynamo-house. 

It is true that one may show him the button, and, if he presses it, he will get a terrific blaze of light. But what is behind the button? How were the wires laid? Why is one type of engine better than another for its own purpose? How is the shop to be run in the most economical way 1 All these questions call for answers, and, on the musical side of the analogy, the answers are not difficult to find? 

For the facts that underlie instrumentation are few and simple: a skin or a metal plate to be beaten; a column of air in brass or wooden tube with some sort of mouthpiece or embouchure; a string or two-four is a good number — to be bowed, plucked, or struck. 

These are the essentials and, if the student grasps them, he will soon be brought to see that change comes but slowly and rarely, and that, when it comes, it is more apparent than real. Edward I.'s " Roger o le Troumpour " ^ sounds very ancient in 1914, but he made exactly the same music for his sovereign at Carnarvon as the cavalry trumpeters now make for George V. at Aldershot. And, even if we leave the Long Valley for the more rarefied atmosphere of Queen's Hall, W., we can only record an additional tube or two each with a mechanical air switch. This is the point for the practical musician. 

 The old persists in the new and, without an understanding of the weapon itself, we cannot wield it. It is not necessary to enlarge on these topics here. They are all dealt with as they come up in turn for discussion. 

The main lines of study concern the original type of instrument, then its modifications,  See page 41.and last its use in its present-day perfection — or in some cases, one must say very partial perfection. A good deal of space has been devoted to explaining the String-technique. This is a subject not often studied from the outsider's point of view. 
It is, however, well worth undertaking as, apart from its inherent musical and scientific interest, its complex and elaborately expressive methods are apt to before the student, especially the student who is a professional pianist. For purposes of reference I have begun with a complete list of orchestral instruments, their compasses, and notations; and ended with an index which is also a digest of the work.
Publication date: 1914

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